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Music is everywhere… from sporting events, elevators, restaurants, even the workplace. Depending on the genre and tone, it can either lull you to sleep, or help boost your energy level to prepare for a workout. Music can help drown out background noise, or help make the ordinary and mundane seem a lot more palatable.
Music is also a powerful tool leveraged by corporations and advertising agencies. Music evokes emotion, which is why certain songs are specifically chosen to help sell specific brands and products. Once upon a time it wasn’t cool for bands or artists to “sell out,” but in today’s world, it’s not unusual for bands like LCD Soundsystem and Wilco (who have a Grammy nomination up for next year) to have their music subsidized in exchange for commercial usage.
Music in the Workplace
Many major corporations are relaxing their policies with regard to music in the workplace, including the English and Wales Police, which actually spent as much as £660,952 in licensing fees in 2012. Studies have shown that music increases and boosts productivity, while excess noise pollution detracts from it. In one poll from helpscout.net, 48% of workers said that background chatter was their biggest distraction at work. Allowing employees to listen to music, either via headphones or at low volumes inside offices and cubicles, drowns out incessant chatter and facilitates increased concentration.
Music also helps repetitive tasks seem more fun. Not everyone has the most glorious job in the world, but a paycheck is what matters the most. Background music spices up the monotony of boring tasks for cubicle denizens, according to the New York Times, or it helps pass the time if you’re working from home. Research confirms that 88% of people work more accurately and 58% actually work faster while listening to uplifting music, according to MusicWorks.
More and more of us use a laptop or desktop computer for work, so we’re essentially chained to a keyboard for 8-10 hours a day and five or more days a week. Music keeps the rest of your mind active while you’re trying not to be hypnotized staring at the same computer screen all day.
Food service workers, especially those working in a kitchen know the importance music plays during prep work and clean up. There’s even a Spotify app called Supper to help you pair music with food preparation and enjoyment. It was actually promoted by Kelis – yes, the one with the milkshake which brought the boys to the yard – who apparently is a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef and released a 2014 album appropriately called Food.
The Mozart Effect
Music can create a calm and soothing effect. The Mozart Effect is one of the most popular music studies published because it proved that listening to classical music, particularly Mozart, increased cognitive ability. As a concept, it was first introduced by French scientist Alfred Tomatis in 1991, but it was in 1993 when three researchers, Rauscher, Shaw and Ky published their findings on the effect of listening to Mozart on spatial reasoning. This had such a tremendous impact at the time that then-governor of the state of Georgia opined that the state should spend $105,000 a year to give a classical music CD to parents of newborn children.
Music affects people differently, but generally speaking, familiar music has a calming effect. A case in point is the competitive world of professional poker, where you will see many players with headphones on even in major tournaments. In what way does the music they listen to help their game and what exactly does each of them prefer? Online poker platform PokerStars recently collaborated with Spotify to give the public a glimpse into what some of the top players in the world prefer to listen to when they play long sessions.
Professional poker players are always seeking out ways to increase their edge. Music is a tool you might not expect to be found in a card player’s arsenal, but can be a game-changer in certain situations.
While engaging in high-stakes poker, pros want to be in their best possible frame of mind in order to stay focused and collected. Music can help players keep their cool while they battle it out in tournaments, one of “over 500 functions” music can fulfill, according to a 2013 study. Interestingly, psychology website PsychCentral quotes research that indicates that listening to music even reduces stress and anxiety in hospital patients about to undergo surgery.
Many poker pros logging long hours gravitate toward upbeat, repetitive music like techno and EDM, because the thumping beat keeps them alert and energized during late-night sessions.
Music gets you pumped up. That’s why music is the best thing for you to listen to while you are preparing to work out. Music and athletics go hand-in-hand. Anyone who works out regularly has a specific mix that helps boost their energy.
Avid runners craft their own running mixes. Long-distance runners often want something they can listen to over a long haul. A few years ago, Nike commissioned musicians to create special music for their Nike+ app. James Murphy from LCD Soundsystem was tapped by Nike to create a special composition to accompany jogging workouts. The album, titled “45:33”, was designed by Murphy to be listened to straight through during a single 45-minute jog.
Professional Sports Fandom
The sport of baseball has always embraced music to help kill the downtime between batters. Ballparks select “walk up” music that will play over the PA system when each player takes their turn at bat. The exact origins of walk up music is obscure, but Lenny Dyskstra from the Philadelphia Phillies often gets credit for requesting that multiple songs be played for his different at bats during the 1993 season. During the 2015 MLB season, Drake was the most requested artist to be played among professional baseball players. AC/DC and Led Zeppelin are not far behind on the list of most-popular walk up songs.
NBA games used to only have music during halftime and in between quarter breaks. But these days, there’s music pumped in during any dead ball time outs.
Elevator Music and Airport Music
Muzak, or what is known as soft instrumental elevator music was created by the Muzak company who conducted a Stimulus Production test in the 1940s and discovered that employees had a 9.1% boost in their productivity while listening to music. Their goal was to pump in special music to enhance to mood of workers. Now the company has been rebranded as Mood Media and claims to be able to improve productivity using music, sounds and visuals.
The entire point of elevator music is to make the ride a little more comfortable because a lot of people have elevator phobias — whether it’s a fear of cramped spaces, fear of getting stuck, or general social anxiety. Muzak, easy listening and moodsong were explored in depth in 2004, in a book published by the University of Michigan Press.
In 1978, Brian Eno created Music for Airports, which was ambient music specially designed for people coming and going in wide open spaces. In the liner notes of Music for Airports, Eno wrote that “Ambient Music is intended to induce calm and a space to think.”
It was one of the earliest incarnations of now-popular genre ambient music.
Today, music is everywhere you go. Just stop and listen. More and more often, you’ll hear music before you step onto a plane, shop for groceries at the market, browse in a shopping mall, gamble it up at a casino, or cheer on your favorite team. In the workplace, listening to music has become an acceptable practice, as it helps reduce distractions and increase productivity. Even professional poker players curate their own playlists, not only to keep them awake and alert, but also calm and cool under pressure.
Whether you’re an avid runner, or a poker pro, or just a humble person working the line at a busy restaurant… music will help you get through your work day.